AT&T, Comcast and Verizon say they won’t sell customers' browsing histories


Concern has mounted in the US after the Senate and then the House voted to permit ISPs to sell customers' browsing histories and other data without consent. In response to these concerns, major ISPs have spoken out to say they will do no such thing.

AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have all published statement that aim to calm fears that may have arisen this week. All three insist they do not sell customer data and have no intention of doing so. Whether customers are convinced by the pleading, however, is a different matter entirely.

AT&T's statement from the company's public policy chief, Bob Quinn, is rather aggressive in tone, saying: "in truth, companies that collect and use the most customer information on the internet are not the ISPs but other internet companies, including operating system providers, web browsers, search engines, and social media platforms. And the FCC rules had nothing -- literally nothing -- to do with these companies or their practices."

In the full post on its blog, AT&T says:

AT&T's privacy protections are the same today as they were five months ago when the FCC rules were adopted.  We had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed, and we will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law.  The Congressional action had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers.

It is also flatly untrue that the Congressional action eliminated all legal protections governing use of consumer information.  For example, AT&T and other ISPs' actions continue to be governed by Section 222 of the Communications Act just as they were for the nearly two years that passed between reclassification of internet access as a Title II service and the passage of new rules last fall. Former FCC Chairman Wheeler wasn’t shouting then that consumers’ privacy was at risk because we had no rules.  The statute itself protected consumers.

Comcast published a similar statement on its website:

There's been a lot of attention and questions about consumer privacy in recent days.  At Comcast, we respect and protect our customers' personal information.  Always have, always will.  We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history.  We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.

Equally, Verizon insists that it is "committed to your privacy":

Let's set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don't do it and that’s the bottom line.

Verizon is fully committed to the privacy of our customers. We value the trust our customers have in us so protecting the privacy of customer information is a core priority for us. Verizon’s privacy policy clearly lays out what we do and don't do as well as the choices customers can make.

We have two programs that use web browsing data -- and neither of these programs involves selling customers' personal web browsing history. Customers have a choice about participating in both programs.

While the matter has been voted on by the Senate and the House, President Trump is yet to sign the resolution that would reverse the Obama-era policies. That said, he is expected to do so within the next few days.

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